Bob Brenly opined yesterday that Starlin Castro may ultimately be best suited as a 5th hitter. The reasoning is his developing power and his ability to make contact give him a chance to be a traditional run producer, that is, someone who drives in runs.
At the risk of getting lambasted by those who say RBIs mean absolutely nothing, I think they still have some worth and there is skill involved when it comes to driving in runs. It's not all luck.
Certain players are more apt to drive in runs than others. We know this intuitively. Adam Dunn (.338 OBP, .456 Slugging) and Carlos Lee (.338 OBP, .439 SLG ) are statistically similar in some respects. If anything, Dunn has had a significantly higher value as an offensive player in his career than Lee (average of 125 RC+ over 113 RC+. But, in their primes, I think most of us would have feared seeing Lee more in an RBI situation.
The reason is simple. The skill needed to drive in runs is the abiilty to make contact. Lee is more likely to put the ball in play and thus is more likely to get a hit and/or drive a runner home. As such, he's been the better RBI man in his career, even with Dunn's hitting 40 or more HRs 5 times and 38 or more 8 times while Lee has never hit 38 HRs in a single season.
While Starlin Castro is not similar to either player, he does make contact and he does get a lot of hits. That is going to translate to a few more RBI down the road. As it is, this year he has a career high 75 RBI and is on pace to hit 83. Now, I understand the concept of out avoidance and the importance of OBP. Most of the time I want guys to find a way on base. But with guys in scoring position, I prefer someone who is going to drive them home, especially with two outs.
I think Castro can be that guy, especially as a 5th hitter, where he'll get plenty of opportunities.
At first Brenly said Castro wouldn't be a 100 RBI guy but he quickly changed that thought and I agree. Had he been batting in the 5th spot all season, he certainly would have had a chance even this year.
Castro's HR yesterday was his 13th as a 22 year old who is just growing into his body. He consistently squares up the ball and as he has filled out and added strength, it no longer seems unrealistic he can be a 20-25 HR guy, perhaps even before he reaches his peak years.
Its a long way from the days the Cubs considered batting him leadoff. He's not going to be a big OBP guy and he's a slightly above average runner in short bursts (though I think he's faster than that underway). Castro's best tool, however, isn't his eye or his legs, it's his bat.
That's not to say we should completely give up on him as as an OBP guy either. As Castro develops power and becomes the guy you don't want to face with men on base, he'll get less strikes thrown early in the count -- and with the improved patience he's shown in the last few months (6.3% walk rate since June 1st), I think we can at least expect him to eventually average a walk rate of about 7% or so. That's not anything to get all googly about, but if he hits .300 over 700 PAs we're talking about a .350 OBP.
I think most of us can live with that if he can get some big hits from that 5th spot.
Filed under: Analysis